Shot Darts

The Mental Game
Lots of talk about this, so perhaps a thread may be useful.

A buddy of mine curls.  He skipped last night, and all went brilliantly.  He commented that "Once you get out of your own way, things go well".

This struck a chord with me, so I thought about my last practice session.... I have several different types of sessions now, this one was for technique.  Pick a spot on the board ( I choose a triple ) and pound away at it with the 'right' stroke.  This would be the one you've developed by playing A1/A2, which makes up another technique session.


"But", you might say, "you're talking about technique! What does this have to do with the mental game?"

Simple.... you want to do something to improve your technique. Say it is downwards wrist snap at extension.  Pick your target, and throw every dart at the target with that wrist snap.  Don't worry about hitting it every time.  Don't worry about snapping the wrist down. I mean sure, it will be your primary focus, but really, how hard can that be? Do you really need to grind it out?

It's actually trivial to do when you get out of your own way.

Stay on the target.... repeat,repeat,repeat... snap snap snap.  You may notice that you are getting closer and closer/hitting it more often.  This is the A2 mindset.... make the barrels touch by repetition of the movements.  How hard can that be? 

It's easy when you get out of your own way.

Once I thought about hitting, the grouping got worse and the accuracy suffered.  Do NOT focus on hitting the target.  Do NOT *try* to force/ram the shot into the triple.  Do NOT micro focus on your arm movement.  

Think JUST the one thing in the stroke you are trying to fix....If its' wrist snap forget about your stance, forget about your pullback... JUST think of the one detail..  Make it easy on yourself.... one thing only.  Doing that meant I hit a LOT more.  DO NOT get distracted by your success.  Just keep pounding away reproducing that one technical point with as little effort as possible.

I found that I was almost mindlessly throwing after a while -- *almost*.  The idea was to replicate the feeling of that wrist snap each and every time, so attention was being paid to the snap....  *Almost* mindless because the effort to do so became less and less.... Not *one* spastic shot. Easy, repeated delivery of the dart to the board.  

Accuracy ? x 10.

Because, I got out of my own way.  When you do that, you reveal what you are capable of doing.

The effort to get out of your way can be intense.  That can be hard to do. You need to practice enough to trust yourself.... ever wonder why great dart players have a big ego?  Many worries disappear if you believe in yourself.

So there you have it....Turns out that even in a technique session, the mental game is number one.
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Well put and well written Big E.  I have found the exact same thing that you mention. When I am throwing on "auto-pilot", I always, always perform better.  When I try to force the dart into a bed, my performance automatically suffers.  In fact, the best games I play are the ones where I am just having fun with friends, having conversation between shots and a drink or two.  The situation is not super competitive, but I play well above average (for me) and tend to win every game.

This, of course, is not to say that we don't need to practice dealing with stressful situations, but relaxing and letting it just happen (after appropriate practice of course) always seems to be the way to go.
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(12-09-2015, 10:13 PM)ranger86 Wrote: Well put and well written Big E.  I have found the exact same thing that you mention. When I am throwing on "auto-pilot", I always, always perform better.  When I try to force the dart into a bed, my performance automatically suffers.  In fact, the best games I play are the ones where I am just having fun with friends, having conversation between shots and a drink or two.  The situation is not super competitive, but I play well above average (for me) and tend to win every game.

This, of course, is not to say that we don't need to practice dealing with stressful situations, but relaxing and letting it just happen (after appropriate practice of course) always seems to be the way to go.

The reason for that is you actually use different parts of your brain in different modes of shooting.
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Great thread,,,,,,Darts,,,it really is more of a mental game ,,,,,for me I find I play better if I play better competition,,,,,,or another way to put it is ,, I seem to play better with better players,,,,,,,,,,
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Yeah I have those times when I am in that zone and I play very well, but then the thoughts about what I am doing creep in and I go to pot, I think its often when I realise how good I have thrown then instead of just keeping it flowing I think "what did I do to throw so good?" well I know what I did, I was not thinking about it but then I find it hard to get back into it, frustrating really.
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(12-10-2015, 01:19 PM)Getagrip Wrote: Yeah I have those times when I am in that zone and I play very well, but then the thoughts about what I am doing creep in and I go to pot, I think its often when I realise how good I have thrown then instead of just keeping it flowing I think "what did I do to throw so good?"  well I know what I did, I was not thinking about it but then I find it hard to get back into it, frustrating really.

Exactly right.  It is easy to get in your own way by watching yourself play.  

Last night, I was playing n01 for the first time in months.  Best shots were of two kinds.  One was to repeat the *sensation* of the throw, using rhythm and with minimal direction.  The second was look and shoot -- no delay.  Both don't consciously direct very much action.  I've been working on my wrist snap, so that was the only real focus.  Nothing like that very conscious deliberate throwing that you see Adrian Lewis doing these days. That is relegated to practice -- the detect and correct session.    

It went better than I expected, as I put up the same sort of averages that I was throwing 2 months ago, and even had a shot a a 15 darter.

Now, I've had no practice, due to injury, and last night was the first long session I've done in two months.   It is not possible that the technique improved.  So obviously, the mental game was letting  the mechanics work.
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A couple mixed drinks let me get out of my own way. I stop ever thinking about form and focus simply on my target.

I can't say I've actively tried to change my form, but it has changed on its own. I used to throw from a little to the right of my eye (picture Barney), to actually blocking my right eye for a small fraction of time with my draw. (Picture GAndo).

Over time, I switched from intermediates to a pretty short stem (Cosmo #2). When I try other people's darts with longer stems, I hit my face nearly every time. I used to hit my face with the inters, and I think that's why my hand stayed right. This was not a conscious change.

The only time I notice my form, is when I feel myself snap my hand out to the right on release, and that occasional shoulder snatch when I try to sing the dart too hard. All I need to do to correct is remind myself 'smooth and straight'

I never worry about equipment... I never think another setup or set of darts is better. Stuff like that IS exactly getting in your own way.
-Milky

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There are two paths you can choose to take, one being that you never ever think about how you deliver the dart, just let the play of the game affect your throw.  That is Flight School. Don't think about the stroke, think about putting the dart into the hole.  

The second path is that you detect why a dart misses and if detecting the same reason over and over again, consciously address it.

That could be as you say, something like a snap to the right.  With me, that is a symptom of something else.  It means the athleticism or eye/hand coordination or whatever you may call it, has kicked in to compensate for something else.  The "smooth and straight" instruction deals with that something else.

My methods are basically as follows:  Detect, Correct, Ingrain, Stress, Repeat.

I think that is a rather common approach to sport.

This is how I practice: 

If I snap the hand to the right,  I've misaligned elbow/forearm to target.  I probably rushed the setup.

On the other hand, the roll of the hand to the outside and snap with pinky down ( sort of a diagonal snap ),is another symptom, pointing to my drawing the dart back towards the nose and not straight back along the sight line. If going for T20, the forward push is to the T1 and the wrist wants to correct.

When the wrist does NOT snap down, and it stays up ( classic snatch ) it's a response to a push towards the T5, and the hand it trying to get the dart to the right.... For me, often that is movement of the elbow/throwing with the shoulder.

By ensuring that the wrist snaps down properly at the end of follow through, ie. removing the symptoms, their cause can be fixed.


This is all done consciously during practice by paying attention to external cues.  Eg. Did the hand snap down? That one is easy to tell.  Was the pullback straight?  My external cue for that is if I pull back far enough I can see over the dart to the target.  Which also depends if my stance supports that movement/sighting. 

Internal cues ( did that feel good?) are notoriously inaccurate.  What feels good is what you are doing, which may not be what you want to be doing.

Video helps.

During practice a lot of conscious attention paid to the single most important movement, IMO the follow through , which gets relaxed as the session progresses.  As less and less conscious attention is being made to the effort, more and more importance is placed on stroke repetition ( ingrain ).  This may be where the two methods meet.

I do NOT attempt to target all three darts as independent items.  I rely on rhythm for the last two darts during the scoring phase of the game. ( For me, it is rhythm that helps reduce conscious effort.   )

Once satisfied with the stroke, it gets burned into place by hammering away at a single target. Then another.  Here, drills like 100 darts at 20 or 19 or Bull or D16, for eg. can work. So can A2. ( ingrain )  

The stroke then gets stressed using A3 with random targets, a modification to A3 that requires grouping *and* hitting the target, or a few legs of 501 against the computer.  The goal being to take that stroke that was ingrained and do it in a different environment.  Often, not on the same day -- you can get tired and the results become misleading.

After the stress session, I sit down, do an analysis of what happened well and what did not.  I write things down to help start the next practice session.

That is basically it.

Hope that helps.
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I'll agree with one thing, the title " MENTAL"
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(12-10-2015, 01:19 PM)Getagrip Wrote: Yeah I have those times when I am in that zone and I play very well, but then the thoughts about what I am doing creep in and I go to pot, I think its often when I realise how good I have thrown then instead of just keeping it flowing I think "what did I do to throw so good?"  well I know what I did, I was not thinking about it but then I find it hard to get back into it, frustrating really.

This sounds to me a bit like you are 'time travelling' 
Do not dwell in the past on your last shot, and don't think to the future to what the final result may or may not be.  These are all things that we can not control and are distractions from the task at hand, which is delivering the dart we have in our hand right now to the board.   

Everyone gets distracted/time travels/looses focus.  Just recognize it and return your focus to what you are doing.
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So how do you correct 7 of 8 darts on the wire? Literally no flaw in form. You swore all 7 darts were in when you let go. You literally started walking on 3 of them.
-Milky

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(12-11-2015, 06:52 AM)davidsproull Wrote:
(12-10-2015, 01:19 PM)Getagrip Wrote: Yeah I have those times when I am in that zone and I play very well, but then the thoughts about what I am doing creep in and I go to pot, I think its often when I realise how good I have thrown then instead of just keeping it flowing I think "what did I do to throw so good?"  well I know what I did, I was not thinking about it but then I find it hard to get back into it, frustrating really.

This sounds to me a bit like you are 'time travelling' 
Do not dwell in the past on your last shot, and don't think to the future to what the final result may or may not be.  These are all things that we can not control and are distractions from the task at hand, which is delivering the dart we have in our hand right now to the board.   

Everyone gets distracted/time travels/looses focus.  Just recognize it and return your focus to what you are doing.

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(12-11-2015, 08:30 AM)Milkysunshine Wrote: So how do you correct 7 of 8 darts on the wire? Literally no flaw in form. You swore all 7 darts were in when you let go. You literally started walking on 3 of them.

It is highly unlikely that it is the natural spray of your darts is what is taking them all onto the wire.  I would suspect a common element caused that to happen.

If I *think* my throw is flawless because it *felt* right,  it is clear my perception of my throw is not reality.  That feeling is what makes me start to walk to the board before the dart lands.  Feeling is an internal cue.  Internal cues are unreliable -- is what you feel real or not real?  That is something to figure out.

To do that, I'd take a slow motion video of the throw with my cell phone or better yet a Go-Pro if I had access to one.  The video should show the throw, the board and the darts in the air.  Then, go from there.  

If the throw still appears flawless and the darts fly true, the fix would depend on the double.  For a side wire I would say it was line -- horizontal aim was off.  For  top/bottom, I'd say it was weight or release timing -- vertical control is off. Or maybe a bit of both. The video can only show the quality of the movement patterns.  It cannot show details to the point that by looking at the player, you know what they hit.  

There are more bizarre things that could be causing this result, like a mental block.  Perhaps the player was up against someone that they thought they could never beat or they just thought they were "unlucky" that day?  So they do not win.  It's a self fulfilling prophecy.  But why wire the double? Ego does not let them throw far off the mark in wiring the doubles the player looks great losing.  

I'm sure there are boatloads of psychological reasons that people might miss like that.
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I think I just missed. Lol.
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Here's an example of what I see as detecting an error ( the second dart) and correcting with a conscious effort.  I suspect it was conscious because the follow through of the third throw appears to be exaggerated, unlike the first throw...... 

https://youtu.be/j_AhjqOmogE?t=369

It looks like there are some things that transfer directly from practice into the game environment. I for one, do not think Adams was just thinking *only* about hitting the target on the third dart.
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